Recently, another blogger wrote about the intersection between his real and online lives, in particular his recent connection via Facebook with a coworker. He declared that now his “writing life and [ ] real life are the same thing.” That writer “works with lawyers.” He explained that, “beyond that, I don’t name the firm, the areas of law we work in, or the people at the firm, and especially not the clients. Neither my personal blog nor my writing blog deal with my Real Job.”
I also work with lawyers. That’s because I am a lawyer. Aside from mentioning the area of law to which my practice is devoted (labor law), I do not reveal any further details about my work.
I never write online about any of my business associates, the cases I handle, the appearances I make, nor do I blog about the law, save and except for the one case about which I have written fairly extensively to date: Conservatorship of Wendland. However, that case was unique in that it presented novel questions of law and fact, attracted the attention of the media around the world, and resulted in a controversial decision from the California Supreme Court which concluded six years of litigation. The gentleman at the center of the debate died that summer, before the Court announced its ruling, and my client died a couple of years ago. If the case were still pending, I would, of course, be ethically constrained from writing about it.
I can only remember one occasion when I have spoken to anyone at the office about the fact that I maintain a blog. That limited conversation was in the context of a news item about an individual who suffered severe professional consequences as a result of his online activities. I casually mentioned that I have a blog, but do not write about my business activities. Frankly, no one seemed the least bit interested in my blog — if they even knew what I was talking about. No one asked any questions about my site or requested the address. The discussion segued into other topics and the subject has never again been raised. It simply does not come up within the context of my daily activities, the persons with whom I interact or the subjects we broach in conversation.
I am a firm believer in the separation of business and pleasure. Many years ago when a childhood friend married a dentist, several of our mutual friends found it odd that I did not become his patient. My rationale was uncomplicated: I did not want to see him socially, as well as in a professional setting and predicted that if the latter did not go well, the former could become extremely uncomfortable. A couple of our friends wish now that they had taken the same approach. My online activities are simply a hobby, a fun diversion from the grind of earning a living by practicing law. I maintain a solid wall between the two, in part because blurring the line between them would spoil my enjoyment of writing online and blogging. When I sit down in front of my computer here at home, I usually want to think about anything and everything other than legal issues, what transpired at the office, my coworkers, etc. My professional endeavors are extremely stressful and demanding; I relax by leaving all of that at the office and writing online about myriad other topics.
One blogger asked: “Would you be comfortable with everyone knowing that you write, or are there people you would prefer to keep that a secret from?” Well, all of my colleagues know that I “write” because writing is a huge part of how I earn a living. In fact, before changing the focus of my practice a little over three months ago, I spent three years focusing, in part, on significant writing projects. So my coworkers identify me as a writer, acknowledging and validating my efforts.
But the writing I do professionally is, as mentioned above, far different from what I do online. Again, that is by deliberate design. Each individual has to decide what is right and works best for him/her, depending upon his/her profession, the demands of his/her employer, etc. For me, I am happiest, most secure and at ease keeping my two worlds discrete and apart from each other.